Let us start by saying, that in the course of the development of human society there were a lot of factors that influenced it and caused dramatic changes.
Among these factors there is one that deserves special attention: religion. Points of view concerning religion are the most controversial that can be imagined and religion is always in the center of heated argument. Religion is a paradox, because it is opposite to science, but still, it does not disappear with the development of science.
First of all, the influence of religion on society should be studied on a large scale – historical scale. Since times immemorial religion has occupied a considerable place in human soul. It is characteristic for a human being to be scared by everything he does not understand, and that was the case with ancient people.
Religion was the source of information for them; they got the answers they needed from shamans and as the results of different religious ceremonies and interpretation of “signs” sent by gods. In this case such strong impact of religion may be explained by lack of scientific knowledge.
If we move further by a historical scale, we should mention the impact of religion in medieval society, where it was predominantly negative. At that time religion caused a number of serious problems that may even be called catastrophes: Crusades, which took lives of hundreds of people, the Inquisition that murdered and deceived even more people may be given as the examples of destructive influence of religion on society.
Moreover, it is commonly known, that in medieval society God stood in the center of Universe and the significance of a man was enormously underestimated. Medieval people thought that a person was a mere toy in the hands of omnipotent God.
Luckily, the situation changed with the development of knowledge, education and science, and a man got his level of significance. However, even later, when the Dark Age ended, religion was still very powerful in many countries. It may be proved by such a historic personality as Cardinal Richelieu who managed to become the unofficial ruler of France (Levi).
Nowadays, in contemporary world there exist societies in which state and religion are separated from each other and those where they are united (Islamic countries). In the latter the ties between state and religion may be illustrated by strict observance of the rules of the Koran, though it must be mentioned that some attempts to lessen its influence are being made.
In the USA the First Amendment “declares freedom of religion to be a fundamental civil right of all Americans” (Neusner 316). So, it is up to people to decide what place should be occupied by religion in their life.
Religious people insist that religion helps to improve the relationship in the family, it can help overcome poverty and can help struggle against social problems, like divorce, crimes, drug addiction. Religion can strengthen a person’s self-esteem and help to avoid depression. They say that if each person is an element of society, religion helps to organize the functioning of society successfully.
One more thing to be mentioned here is contemporary decline of religion observed by sociologists nowadays. It is seen as the part of “secularization” (Herbert 4). “Secularization in turn is understood to be the result of modernization… as a worldwide process consisting of ‘industrialization … urbanization, mass education, bureaucratization and communications development’” (Herbert 4).
Still, the question of secularization is a very debatable one; many sociologists question its validity, proving that religion is not in decline everywhere (Herbert 4).
As a conclusion, let us say that religion has always occupied an important place in society. The attitude towards religion is a very personal matter and everyone may treat religion in the way that he/she finds the most appropriate; unless he/she takes actions that can harm other members of society.
Herbert, David. Religion and Civil Society: Rethinking Public Religion in the Contemporary World. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003.
Levi, Anthony. Cardinal Richelieu: And the Making of France. NY: Carroll & Graf, 2002.
Neusner, Jacob. World Religions in America: An Introduction. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.